Rey ty psychology and psychiatry a marxist critique


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Rey Ty, Psychology, Psychiatry, Marxism, Marxist, Critique, Freud, Marcuse, Engels, Watson, Skinner, behaviorism, Freudianism, alienation, capitalism, socialism, superstructure, economic base, historical materialism, dialectical materialism, dialectics, mode of production, exchange, class society, dominant view, ideology, racism, working class, national, chauvinism, sexism, male supremacy, human nature, individualism, subjectivism, false theories, consciousness, social psychology, abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, experimental psychology, Fromm, means of production, ownership, erotic theory, repression, sexual repression, eros, surplus repression, sexuality, sexual liberation, Lenin, Marx, Engels, Labor, Pavlov, reflection, neo-Freudian, social labor, freedom, necessity, feminine ferment,unions, classes, families, capitalism, socialism, personality, political awareness, monopoly, science, philosophy, natural, social, dialectics, nature, observation, experiment

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Rey ty psychology and psychiatry a marxist critique

  1. 1. Psychology & Psychiatry: Rey Ty Northern Illinois University A Marxist Critique
  2. 2. Psychology & Psychiatry • “…the study of crucial psychological areas, such as intelligence, behavior, motivation, the unconscious, social activity, emotions, and mental illness, are distorted and falsified by powerful class and racist influences” (p. 7).
  3. 3. Psychology & Psychiatry • “The contributions of Marxism to psychology are to be found in four areas: 1. The Marxist dialectical materialist approach to science in general and t psychology and psychiatry specifically. 2. The Marxist historical materialist approach to the development of human beings and to society. 3. The Marxist critique of psychology in the United States. 4. The contributions of Marxism and of Marxist psychologists to the science of psychology” (pp. 7-8).
  4. 4. Philosophy & Psychology • “There is a special link between philosophy and psychology. This link is found in that special area of philosophy known as epistemology, or the theory of knowledge. Epistemology deals with, among other things, the origin of consciousness and the mind, the relationship of mind and body, the nature of thought, language and logic, abstract and concrete thought, and the influence of society and social labor on individual and social thinking. It is obvious that these general philosophical areas are also major areas of scientific psychological study. Indeed, it can be stated that psychology provides the scientific basis for certain major features of epistemology, while epistemology generalizes the specific scientific findings of psychology” (Nahem, p. 10).
  5. 5. Philosophy & Psychology • “Psychology, like all sciences, has been the battleground between materialist and idealist viewpoints throughout history. Before its separation from philosophy as an independent science, psychology has a long materialist tradition rooted in the views of the ancient Greek materialist philosophers, and in the materialist philosophy of Bacon, Hobbes and Locke in seventeenth century England and Diderot, Helvetius and d’Holbach in eighteenth century France. Marxism derived and built its materialist theory of knowledge on that materialist foundation” (Nahem, p. 10).
  6. 6. Philosophy & Psychology • “The fundamental propositions set forth by this materialist epistemology are: that matter is primary and that mind and consciousness are secondary and derivative; that mental processes and consciousness itself are products of specially organized matter in the form of the brain and nervous system. Thus, Marxist materialism holds that psychological theories which separate the mind from the brain, or which deny the primary of the brain and nervous system are unscientific. The work of Pavlov and others in physiology is viewed as a confirmation of materialist epistemology since it confirms the reliance of mental processes on physiological processes” (Nahem, p. 10).
  7. 7. Philosophy & Psychology • “Psychology has also had to fight the battle between mechanical and dialectical approaches. Marx and Engels overcame mechanical, static materialism by combining materialism with dialectics. They held that the world is to be comprehended as a complex of processes which go through an uninterrupted change of coming into being and passing away. Further, science must study phenomena in their unity and conflict and in their interrelation and interdependence. All phenomena must be seen, they maintained, in their quantitative change leading to qualitative change” (Nahem, pp. 10-11). • Engels. (1941). Ludwig Feuerbach. NY: International Publishers, pp. 44-46.
  8. 8. Dialectical vs. Mechanical Approach • “From this dialectical viewpoint, behaviorism in psychology, such as the theories of J.B. Watson or B.F. Skinner, must be criticized as mechanical, as the reduction of the psychological process of human functioning to the physiological process of behavior alone. Behaviorism, carried to the extremes, has led to unscientific—and reactionary—theories, such as Behavior Modification which uses unethical and even brutal means to change behavior” (Nahem, p. 11).
  9. 9. Metaphysical Freudianism • “On the other hand, we have the metaphysical theory of Freudianism, which focuses on an unconscious mind, divorced from social and individual reality and consciousness, which is seen as the basic source determining human affect, attitude and behavior” (Nahem, p. 11).
  10. 10. Behaviorism & Freudianism • “Scientific psychology must reject the general theories of both Behaviorism and Freudianism. It must seek to show the dialectical relationship between social and individual reality, between thought, consciousness, unconscious processes, emotion, attitude and behavior” (Nahem, p. 11).
  11. 11. Marx on Alienation• “Along with the contributions of Marxist dialectical materialism in the field of epistemology, Karl Marx also provided a significant contribution to psychology in his development of the concept of human alienation. Marx rooted alienation in the very process of capitalism production itself” (Nahem, p. 11). • Marx. (1964). The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. NY: International Publishers.
  12. 12. Marx on Alienation• “Marx saw the worker as alienated from the product of his labor and from work itself because, since the product belongs to the capitalist, his work is ‘forced labor… not his own, but someone else’s’ ” (Nahem, p. 11). • Marx. (1964). The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. NY: International Publishers, pp. 110-111.
  13. 13. Marx on Alienation • “Further, workers are estranged from their true nature as human beings because their work and its product are alien to them. They cannot feel a oneness with nature and society. Alienation is, therefore intrinsic to capitalism and the private ownership of the means of production” (Nahem, p. 11).
  14. 14. Marx on Alienation • “Even under capitalism, Marx saw that workers could combat alienation through associating together to fight for their class interest…” (Nahem, p. 11).
  15. 15. Marx on Alienation• “ ‘(T)he most splendid results are to be observed whenever French socialist workers are seen together. Such things as smoking, drinking, eating, etc., are no longer means of contact or means that bring together. Company, association, and conversation, which again has society as its end, are enough for them; the brotherhood of man is no mere phrase with them, but a fact of life, and the nobility of man shines upon us from their work-hardened bodies’ ” (Nahem, pp. 11-12). • Marx. (1964). The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. NY: International Publishers, pp. 154-155.
  16. 16. Historical Materialism & Psychology • “Historical materialism is the application of dialectical materialism to the origin, development and functioning of human society. Marx and Engels adopted an historical approach to the investigation of the origins of life, of human beings, and of human society” (Nahem, p. 12). • Marx & Engels. (1939). The German Ideology. NY: International Publishers; Engels. (1940). “On the Role of Labor in the Transition from Ape to Man,” Dialectics of Nature, Chater IX.
  17. 17. Marx & Engels • Marx & Engels: ‘“The premises from which we begin are… real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live… Men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion or anything you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as they begin to produce their means of subsistence’” (in Nahem, p. 12). • Marx & Engels. (1939). German Ideology. NY: International Publishers, pp. 6-7.
  18. 18. Not in Brains• Engels: “…the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in man’s better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchanges’ ” (in Nahem, p. 13). • Engels. (1935). Socialism, Utopianism and Scientific. NY: International Publishers, p. 26.
  19. 19. Class Analysis • “In class society, the dominant views, ideology and philosophy are those of the dominant class. Since the social and behavioral sciences are of great influence in the formation of the ideology and beliefs in capitalist society, these sciences cannot be viewed as pure sciences, separated from social or class interests. They must be analyzed as being also shaped, influenced, and distorted by the class which controls the government, the educational and university system, the commercial media, and the wealth to subsidize specific views and ideology. Hence, psychology cannot be viewed as a neutral science, unaffected by class interests” (Nahem, p. 13).
  20. 20. Historical Materialism• “Psychology, from the viewpoint of historical materialism, must be seen as playing an ideological role in the capitalist superstructure. Its scientific role continues alongside its ideological role but such a scientific role is limited and underdeveloped because of the class nature of capitalism” (Nahem, p. 14).
  21. 21. Historical Materialism • “Historical materialism provides for psychology a materialist approach to human and social development. It provides a scientific analysis of the class role that psychology plays under capitalism. It emphasizes the class character of capitalism and the importance of class status for the psychology of individuals. It analyzes the psychological effect of class ideology on human thought, attitude and behavior. It gives paramount importance to human consciousness as opposed to the role of unconscious processes in individual functioning. It explains alienation, not on an existentialist basis of loneliness and social isolation, but on the precise process of capitalist production. Psychology can, indeed, benefit from an historical materialist approach” (Nahem, p. 14).
  22. 22. Marxist Critique of Psychology 1. Anti-working-class ideology 2. Racism 3. National chauvinism 4. Sexism and male supremacy 5. Human nature 6. Individualism and subjectivism 7. False or one-sided theories (Nahem, pp. 14-19)
  23. 23. The Problem with Freud • “Capitalist ideology is filled with individualism and subjectivism. This ideology has flooded the social sciences, including psychology. Freudianism is a prime example of subjective, non-social approach to the human mind and behavior: biological instincts operating through drives, complexes, defences and unconscious motivation, isolate each individual from his social existence and explain normal and abnormal behavior in subjective fashion… The individual is thrown back on feelings and attitudes, divorced from their social context” (Nahem, p. 17).
  24. 24. Marxist Contribution to Psychology “1. Marxism rejects as invalid and unscientific all theories of intellectual, emotional or behavioral inferiority of race, class, sex or national minority. It emphasizes the crucial importance of studying human development in the concrete reality of its existence, social and individual” (Nahem, p. 19).
  25. 25. Marxist Contributions “2. Marxism approaches the human mind and consciousness as a product of the brain and central nervous system. It highlights the highly significant role of language as a means of communication, thought, and regulation of behavior” (Nahem, p. 19).
  26. 26. Marxist Contributions • “3. Marxism stresses the important relationship of the individual to society. The psychology of individuals in the United States must be examined in the context of a class society with a specific— capitalist—superstructure. The effects of the ideological superstructure on the individual’s psychology is of vital significance in psychological study. Similarly, the changes in the psychology of individuals in a socialist society must be seen within the context of the many changes occurring in the transformation of capitalist society to socialist society” (Nahem, p. 19).
  27. 27. Marxist Contributions • “4. Marxism sees the science of psychology as playing an important role in advancing human development. The uncovering of laws of human psychological development can be of great value to education, to human personality, to the formation of character, and to the expansion of human abilities” (Nahem, p. 19).
  28. 28. Marxist Contributions • “5. Marxism emphasizes that psychology and psychiatry are sciences which need to be advanced through careful, meticulous, comprehensive scientific work [including] areas of developmental, abnormal, and social psychology, general experimental psychology, and higher nervous ability” (Nahem, p. 20).
  29. 29. Marxist Contributions • “6. Science is international in scope and requires the best efforts of scientists in all countries for its full progress. International cooperation in the fields of psychology and psychiatry is of vital importance for these sciences. Such cooperation is particularly important for scientists…, since they have much to learn from each other” (Nahem, p. 20).
  30. 30. Marxist Contributions • “7. Marxism believes that science advances through struggle, both scientific and social. Healthy controversy and debate within the field is necessary and welcome and can contribute towards the reflection of false theories and the correction of one-sided theories. Social struggle against racist and reactionary ideology in the guise of scientific psychological theories can lead to their exposure” (Nahem, p. 20).
  31. 31. Marxist Contributions • “8. Marxism believes that a socialist society can produce great changes in people’s psychological health and welfare. The provision of full, comprehensive, available, free health and mental health care is guaranteed under socialism. Likewise, the guarantee of employment, social security, education, equal opportunity, facilities for working mothers, equal pay, and an ever-expanding economic and social system provide psychological security for people under socialism” (Nahem, p. 20).
  32. 32. The “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “One of the most pernicious offshoots of Freudianism is the attempt to merge Freud with Marx. Leaders in this effort have been Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse and Wilhelm Reich” (p. 32).
  33. 33. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “Fromm sought to merge Marx with Freud by eliminating several basic principles of Marxism: that humans are rational; that the working class could bring about socialism; and that socialization of the means of production was the essence of genuine socialism” (p. 32).
  34. 34. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “In their place, Fromm substituted ‘the irrational forces in man which make him afraid of freedom, and which produce his lust for power and his destructiveness’ ” (p. 32).
  35. 35. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • Fromm said that it “is not ownership of the means of production, but participation in management & decision- making” which is needed when his “Humanistic Communitarian Socialism” is achieved” (pp. 32-33).
  36. 36. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “With Herbert Marcuse, the late philosopher of the New Left, we find an ardent defense of the original Freudian theory as socially radical, together with a slashing attack against neo-Freudianism” (p. 33).
  37. 37. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “In his Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud, Marcuse develops what might aptly be called ‘The Erotic Theory of Revolution.’ He centers on what he calls ‘surplus sexual repression… which is that portion of repression which is the result of specific societal conditions sustained in the specific interest of domination’ ” (Nahem, 1981, p. 33). Herbert Marcuse. (1966). Eros & Civilization. Boston: Beacon Press, pp. 87-88.
  38. 38. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “It is not mere witticism to suggest that Marcuse substitutes surplus repression for Marx’s surplus value. Stating that Freud’s original and basic theory was radically critical of society, Marcuse arrives at this conclusion: ‘And this critical sociological function of psychoanalysis derives from the fundamental role of sexuality as a ‘productive force’; the libidinal claims propel progress toward freedom and universal gratification of human needs’ ” (Nahem, 1981, p. 33). • Herbert Marcuse. (1966). Eros & Civilization. Boston: Beacon Press, p. 243.
  39. 39. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “Thus, revolution comes not through working-class struggle (Marcuse, we know, ignores this), but through the libido and its gratification. If confirmation of this Marcusean theory of revolution through sexuality is needed, Marcuse himself furnishes it by his criticism of Wilhelm Reich, another daring ‘fuser’ of Freud and Marx” (Nahem, 1981, p. 33).
  40. 40. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “Marcuse writes: ‘He (Reich) emphasized the extent to which sexual repression is enforced by the interests of domination and exploitation, and the extent to which these interests are in turn reinforced and reproduced by sexual repression. However, Reich’s notion of sexual repression remains undifferentiated; he neglects historical dynamic of the sex instincts and of their fusion with the destruction impulses… Consequently, sexual liberation per se becomes for Reich a panacea for individual and social ills’ ” (Nahem, 1981, p. 33). • Herbert Marcuse. (1966). Eros & Civilization. Boston: Beacon Press, p. 239.
  41. 41. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • Lenin: “The extension of Freudian hypotheses (to the sexual question) seems ‘educated,’ even scientific, but it is ignorant, bungling. Freudian theory is the modern fashion. I mistrust the sexual theories of the articles… in short, the particular kind of literature which flourishes luxuriantly in the dirty soil of bourgeois society. I mistrust those who are always contemplating the sexual question, like the Indian saint his navel. It seems to me that these flourishing sexual theories… are mainly hypothetical, and often quite arbitrary hypotheses… There is no place for it in the Party, in the class conscious, fighting proletariat” (Nahem, 1981, p. 35). • Lenin. (1934). Lenin on the Woman Question. NY: International Publishers.
  42. 42. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “Marx and Engels had held that human consciousness had developed on the basis of language which, in turn, arose when the higher anthropoids began to use tools for labor” (Nahem, 1981, p. 36). • Marx & Engels. (1939). The German Ideology. NY: International Publishers. • Engels. (1940). Dialectics of Nature. NY: International Publishers, Chapter IX.
  43. 43. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “It remained for Pavlov to show that language was a second signal system which only humans possess, in addition to the first (sensory) signal system which both humans and animals possess” (Nahem,
  44. 44. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “For scientific psychology, social activity by the individual is the central and decisive feature in the formation of each individual’s psyche (reflection). The role of parents, family, school, peer groups, unions, fellow workers, and mass struggle is vital in shaping the ideas, emotions, attitudes, behavior, outlook and personality of the individual” (Nahem, 1981, p. 36).
  45. 45. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “Hence, rather than an innate (Freudian) or an acquired (neo-Freudian) unconscious which compels behavior, human consciousness as a reflection of social reality is the true psychic reality & plays the dominant role in human behavior. Rather than a mind which functions internally, basically isolated from daily reality, as the psychoanalysts see it, the mind is formed by & operates in daily reality,, precisely to enable the individual to behave in adaptive fashion” (Nahem, 1981, pp. 36-37).
  46. 46. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “Most decisive in its influence on our thoughts, feelings, and behavior is society and social relations. As Marx stated, ‘In its reality, it (the human essence) is the ensemble of the social relations’” (Nahem, 1981, p. 45). • Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach,” in Engels. (1941). Ludwig Feuerbach. NY: International Publishers, p. 84.
  47. 47. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “Human beings are distinguished from animals by their social labor, their social communication, their social groupings, by their social acquisition and use of language, and by their involvement in the ideas, attitudes, morality and behavior of their society” (Nahem, 1981, p. 45).
  48. 48. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “Human beings in the course of their life history and life activity, internalize the beliefs, mores, goals, ideology, and philosophy of the nation, class, family, and social grouping in which they live and function” (Nahem, 1981, p. 45).
  49. 49. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “This ‘internalized reflection’ of their social life, is the basis for their perceptions, feelings, thoughts, judgments, choices, goals and behavior. Behavior is the outcome of this complexity of individual and social processes” (Nahem, 1981, p. 45).
  50. 50. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “It was Marx who distinguished between animal and human activity with regard to freedom. In his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Marx (p. 113) wrote: ‘The animal is immediately one with its life activity. It does not distinguish itself from it. It is its life activity. Man makes his life activity itself the object of his will and his consciousness. He has conscious life activity. It is not a determination with which he directly merges. Conscious life activity distinguishes man immediately from animal life activity…. Only because of that is his activity free activity’” (Nahem, p. 47). • Marx. (1964). Economic & Philosophic Manuscript of 1844. NY: International Publishers, p. 113.
  51. 51. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “…Skinner…criticized Marx for holding that consciousness existed and mediated between the environment and behavior. Where Marx based freedom on consciousness—thought, judgment, and choice--- Skinner denies consciousness and, with it freedom” (Nahem, p. 47).
  52. 52. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “Engels went beyond the young Marx in developing the dialectical concept of freedom. ‘Hegel was the first to state correctly the relation between freedom and necessity. To him freedom is the appreciation of necessity. ‘Necessity is blind only insofar as it is not understood. Freedom does not consist in the dream of independence of natural laws, but in the knowledge of these laws, and in the possibility this gives of systematically making them work towards definite ends… Freedom of the will therefore means nothing but the capacity to make decisions with knowledge of the subject;” (Nahem, p. 47). • Engels. (1939). Anti-Dühring . NY: International Publishers.
  53. 53. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “Karl Marx stated: ‘Great social changes are impossible without feminine ferment. Social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the sex.’” (Nahem, p. 178). • Marx. Quoted in Political Affairs, March 1971, p. 35.
  54. 54. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “A valid science of social psychology would uncover the decisive role of the capitalist social system in determining the behavior of individuals in groups, classes, families, and unions” (Nahem, pp. 180-181).
  55. 55. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “Real knowledge in psychology would explain he individual personality and intellect in terms of the negative features of individualism, competitiveness, elitism, racism, male supremacy, and anti-working-class ideology, as well as the positive features of struggle, union solidarity, national consciousness, love and companionship, family unity, and political awareness and struggle. Can capitalism, in its monopoly stage, permit such knowledge to reach the people?” (Nahem, p. 181).
  56. 56. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “Behind science, there is philosophy. That is, science, whether natural or social, must be based upon philosophy, must have a philosophy of science” (Nahem, p. 182).
  57. 57. “Merger” of Freud & Marx • “In his Dialectics of Nature, Frederick Engels emphasized the need for a correct philosophy of science for natural scientists. Observation and experimentation must be evaluated and interpreted with philosophical categories and must be fitted into a theoretical framework, he maintained” (Nahem, p. 182). • Engels. (1940). Dialectics of Nature. NY: International Publishers.
  58. 58. Thank You!
  59. 59. Thank You!
  60. 60. Reference • Joseph Nahem. (1981). Psychology & Psychiatry Today: A Marxist View. New York: International Publishers.
  61. 61. Fair Use• In good faith, this work contains fair use of copyrighted and non-copyrighted images from the public domain & the web for non-commercial & nonprofit educational purposes. • This work is distributed free of charge. • The author has neither monetized this work nor sought any profit from its distribution. • Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976: Allowance is made for fair use for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non- profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use. • This work contains original work of commentary and critical analysis. • Quotations are attributed to the original authors and sources.
  62. 62. Psychology & Psychiatry: Rey Ty Northern Illinois University A Marxist Critique